Danny Gonzalez leading the Chamber. (Submitted photo)
He’s not here to make a difference in the whole world - just Immokalee. Danny Gonzalez was voted in as the new president of the Immokalee Chamber of Commerce and he’s hoping to take it along a new, innovative path, building on the chamber’s work over the past years. The son of a crew leader, Danny learned about hard work at an early age and took those lessons to heart. His father taught him that, if you do good, you get rewarded, and that philosophy has served him well. Married, with three grown children, Danny said he has time to devote to his community. He and his wife, Sandy, manage her parent’s very popular restaurant, Lozano’s. Both have worked there some 20 years. Danny is a proud native Immokaleean who said he has always been involved in his community. At Immokalee High School, he was in football and wrestling, but unfortunately had to drop out of school to help his family. Always using his time well, in addition to working hard at the restaurant and taking on chamber duties, he is also working toward getting his GED. He has always been a big supporter of youth sports, including Immokalee’s Pop Warner and Little League, He said he served on the Pop Warner board for six years helped the organization dig out from financial issues. He even helped take Pop Warner to Super Bowl in Orlando ten years ago. He has also been on the chamber board for six years and was named Person of the Year for 2006. “I love Immokalee,” Danny said, and is committed to his community values. Through his lifetime as an active participant in his community, he has many contacts he believes will be of benefit in his new position with the chamber. Danny is convinced that his fellow Hispanics need to speak up. As a large portion of the population that contributes substantially to the Immokalee community, he feels the chamber needs more Hispanic members and is making it his mission to increase their participation. He also hopes to bring in more Haitians to the chamber, saying he wants to work with everybody. Danny wants to lead the chamber in the creation of more jobs He is prepared to go out and talk to the community; to foster enthusiasm for Immokalee’s future; to inspire more volunteers and sponsor more events for the community. He is also convinced that, in spite of the common perception, Immokalee does have enough people to be a year-round economy. Danny has a to-do list that he hopes the chamber will take up. Just on New Market Road he sees a great need for sidewalks and turn lanes. Essentially a two-lane “residential” road, it carries semis and heavy traffic to the Farmers Market. On Jefferson Ave, another residential street used by semis, he sees the need for sidewalks for children who walk to school. He feels the chamber can and should help spur beautification in the downtown area and throughout the town, beginning with new facades to make the area an appealing place to bring tourists. He wants to lead the chamber in partnering with the county and CRA to get the infrastructure that can help Immokalee become a place people want to stop and see, not just drive through. He hopes to see more partnering with area agencies based on an understanding of Immokalee’s needs and is planning to connect with Commissioner Tim Nance to help bring this about. Lozano’s has experience in working with the CRA’s to acquire a beautiful sign that captures people’s attention. He wants people to know about and use these kinds of opportunities to improve their businesses and attract customers. There’s a lot people can do to help themselves as well, he said, like simply painting their buildings and doing regular upkeep. The town needs to find ways to utilize empty buildings and increase parking. He wants “Immokalee to make the most of what Immokalee has.” He’s interested in finding out what has happened to the proposed Walmart. He is a proponent of Walmart, believing it will increase competition by forcing people to get creative. Immokalee needs steady jobs and, with fewer farms surviving, it needs to foster other types of business to create them. He sees potential in the economy and is determined not to “see this town go down.” He isn’t worried about people’s reactions if he speaks up and wants to help more people do the same. He is convinced that’s the way to begin improving. He said he has experience in business and accepts the chamber’s challenge. In his presidency, Danny hopes to make a difference and points to his in-laws as the perfect role model, saying “They’ve done something right.” Other businesses, and the chamber can also make a difference, one step at a time. Danny Gonzalez wants to help lead that march to success, to lead the chamber beyond where it has already been and he is already visiting business leaders to rally their help and enthusiasm. One of the first orders of business is to find a permanent home for the chamber. Helping Danny will be VP Gloria Torres and Secretary Mariela Romero and longtime volunteer Cherryle Thomas. He expects a new treasurer to be on board in October. Danny Gonzalez is ready for his new mission. “I can talk,” he said, “I can represent things the right way.” And he’s looking forward to making his contribution to a new, invigorated Immokalee.